Wednesday’s New York Times reports on the most bizarre race for district attorney in Durham’s history, one that members of the Duke community are all too familiar–and fed up–with.

A week before Election Day, the race for Durham County district attorney is as odd a political campaign as anyone here can recall. The controversial lacrosse case looms over the incumbent, Michael B. Nifong. The opposition, under the banner of Anyone but Nifong, is fractured.

“The whole thing is very strange,” said Joseph H. Collie, a retired businessman and supporter of the write-in Republican, Steve Monks.

Mr. Nifong’s campaign director, Julie Linehan, remarked: “We have a saying here — O.I.D. Only in Durham.”

Perhaps. That doesn’t make it an acceptable state of affairs.

And that doesn’t mean Nifong shouldn’t be held accountable, either.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Out-of-state money from Duke supporters has also entered the campaign. Parents of two unindicted lacrosse players donated $5,000 to establish a group called Duke Students for an Ethical Durham, aimed at registering Duke students to vote against Mr. Nifong. The group’s treasurer, Stefanie Anne Sparks, a paralegal in a law firm that has represented unindicted players, said the group had registered more than 1,000 new voters.

And if you’ve been paying attention to The Chronicle at all, you’ll be aware that there has been a debate as to whether or not Duke students who are from out of state should be registering in North Carolina for the purpose of unseating Nifong.

(Of course, the University has fully supported Duke students registering and voting in North Carolina for whomever they choose).

The Times, which has been criticized vehemently in some corners for its coverage of the imbroglio, asserts in this news story:

Mr. Nifong has been under attack for months by the defense and supporters of the lacrosse players for aggressively pursuing a case based almost entirely on the account of the accuser, which he acknowledges he has heard only from police reports and written statements, and not directly by speaking to her.

The flaws and gaps in the evidence have mounted. No DNA from the defendants was found on the dancer. At least one of the accused appears to have a strong alibi. A second woman hired to strip at the party has said she saw no evidence of an attack. And the array of photographs that led to the identification of the three defendants was not presented according to federal, state and local police guidelines for lineups.

The straightforward–and very incomplete–list of the major flaws of Nifong’s Nifonging of the lax case is, to put it mildly, nice to see in the country’s most influential newspaper.

Regardless, would a Nifong loss change the legal situation for Duke’s indicted trio?

Even if Mr. Nifong loses, it is unclear how the case will be affected. Mr. Cheek said that he tried twice this year to get Mr. Nifong to hand off the case to the state attorney general, and that he allowed the anti-Nifong campaign to put him up as a candidate when the district attorney refused. But because he has decided that he does not want to leave private practice, a victory by Mr. Cheek would mean that Gov. Michael F. Easley would have to pick a successor to Mr. Nifong. The governor, a Democrat, has not made his views on the case known publicly.

Mr. Monks, the Republican candidate, who is running on the slogan “It’s Your Choice. Not the Governor’s,” said that if elected he would review the evidence carefully to make his own determination, but that “this case might very well have to go to trial.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Nifong’s supporters are trying to cast him as an experienced prosecutor and a neophyte politician. He has been a prosecutor for 28 years and says he has handled about 300 felony cases, but he is engaged in his first political race, having been appointed acting district attorney in April 2005.

TDD for one hopes that Nifong loses resoundingly. But all indications are unfortunately pointing toward a victory for Nifong, and a loss for justice, a loss for Durham, and most importantly a loss for the three indicted individuals.

The potential silver lining, of course, is that the trio could have the opportunity for complete and utter vindication in the court of law. Of course, one suspects that even a resounding victory in court would be met with cynicism from certain corners who would claim that the system is rigged, and so on and so forth.

And so it goes.

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